By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Staffers in Diocese of Davenport offices have discovered a new way of getting work done remotely since mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic required most of them to work from home.
They conduct department meetings online and exchange many more emails and phone calls in their efforts to continue to support parishes and leaders. The Annual Diocesan Appeal (ADA) makes all of that work possible.
“All of us have been working from home on various projects, and staying in contact with parish leaders helping them through these past few months,” said Don Boucher, director of faith formation and coordinator of youth and young adult ministry. “We’ve also been meeting weekly as a staff via Zoom, getting updates on our individual work and talking about general office concerns.”
For the first few weeks, the faith formation staff primarily curated resources for ministry leaders to assist with transitioning from in-person faith formation and youth ministry to an at-home format. “Those resources were listed on our newly-created COVID-19 Response — Faith Formation page and connecting pages,” Boucher said. “We did not put out any official guidelines, but provided assistance and advice to folks individually, one-on-one, and collectively in our Tuesday and Thursday online gatherings we’ve been having since mid-March.”
The office also undertook a major project — preparing a plan for fall religious education and youth ministry. Boucher, along with Rosina Hendrickson, coordinator of lifelong faith and lay ministry formation, sought and received feedback from parish and diocesan leaders. She and Boucher worked on guidelines incorporating issues, struggles, concerns and successes that leaders expressed in conversations. “It definitely helped us zero in on what we felt needed to be addressed in the document,” Boucher said.
Diocesan and parish faith formation and youth ministry leaders reviewed the proposed faith formation policy and offered their critiques. The Faith Formation Office took into consideration the feedback and then presented the final draft to Bishop Thomas Zinkula for his approval. “He made a few additions, and what went out (the new policy) is the result of that process.”
The Faith Formation Office has invited all faith formation and youth ministry leaders to join twice-weekly online meetings. “The Tuesday gatherings have focused on a check-in, i.e., ‘how are you doing, personally and ministry-wise? What’s on your mind?’ The Thursday gatherings are focused on a discussion around a specific question which changes weekly,” Boucher said.
“There’s been a solid core group of folks that are regular attendees, and then there’s another group of occasional attendees. Attendees have come from every deanery of the diocese, and every corner of it. It’s been a great way for those folks to help and support each other, and a great way for Rosina and me to keep our pulse on what’s going on in parishes throughout these past months.”
Marianne Agnoli, marriage and family life coordinator, said, “We have transitioned our parish NOURISH caregiver support group meetings to virtual Zoom meetings and are encouraging parishes throughout the diocese to consider starting this virtual support with their local congregations. This program is very easy to facilitate and materials are available in both English and Spanish. Since most caregivers serve a very vulnerable population they are feeling especially isolated from parish life and could greatly benefit from this supportive outreach.”
The diocesan Introduction to Natural Family Planning classes, required for all couples of childbearing age preparing for marriage in the diocese, is now offered monthly through Zoom instruction, Agnoli noted. Couples also may participate in additional, specific NFP method instructions and chart reviews via Zoom.
The pandemic required cancellation of diocesan marriage preparation workshops in March, April and May, which “affected about 50 engaged couples preparing for marriage in our diocese. Each couple was contacted personally to discuss alternative preparation options,” Agnoli said.
“The couples really seemed to appreciate this one-on-one outreach as they tried to navigate through the stress of attempting to prepare for a wedding amid this time of great uncertainty. Several of the couples opted for one of the diocesan-approved online options, while others requested to meet virtually with a parish Sponsor Couple. I really appreciated so many of our Sponsor Couples’ willingness to adapt their ministry to a virtual format for the time being.”
Agnoli has posted virtual Marriage Enrichment opportunities on the diocesan website. All registered Sponsor Couples and other marriage ministers in the parishes receive emails to let them know of these resources.
An in-person diocesan marriage preparation workshop scheduled for Aug. 15 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant may need to be offered online. Agnoli will know the status of the workshop by Aug. 1.
Uncertainty about when faith formation, youth ministry and marriage prep programs will return to in-person format necessitates offering alternatives that include online platforms.
“Although I believe there is great value in gathering physically with others for instruction and support, I have also discovered that offering some of our diocesan ministry opportunities virtually enables greater access to participation for some individuals, especially those who are homebound or must travel a considerable distance to attend,” Agnoli said.
“Speaking personally, in the early stages it was pretty intense, scrambling to find good resources, developing the web pages, posting the resources on the web pages, trying to find out what folks needed,” Boucher said. “I thought it would be a bit more relaxed working from home, but I soon discovered that it felt like I was busier. I found myself really tired at night. Then, once we got through the initial rush — maybe ‘panic’ is a better description — I and I believe most of us, settled into a routine and a new normal. Working from home is working out.”
Boucher added, “This situation has forced us into a place we’ve been told for years that we needed to go to. The internet is a place, a world, an environment, in which many people ‘live.’ It’s where they work, they gather, they interact, they find community.”
“I’m reminded of Jesus’ final command to the Apostles: ‘Go, make disciples of all nations.’ The internet has become such a nation, and our people, God’s people, are there. We have needed to be there for quite some time, and the best thinkers in faith formation, youth ministry, church ministry, have told us we need to go there. It took a pandemic to move us into this world. When it’s over, I really hope and pray we don’t abandon this world, as it needs our presence, our people need our presence there, God needs our presence there,” Boucher said.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula said the ADA “gives people the opportunity to share a monetary gift that they have received from God in order to help the diocese share the gift of faith that we all have received from God.”
Give to the Annual Diocesan Appeal
The Annual Diocesan Appeal supports the diocesan offices and ministries of the Diocese of Davenport. Michael Hoffman, the diocesan director of development and stewardship, said, “The diocese is grateful for any gifts we receive for the Annual Diocesan Appeal. No matter the amount, your gift does so much to cover the costs of numerous services and programs provided throughout the diocese. It is through the generous donations that we can offer support to so many.”
To make a donation online visit https://tinyurl.com/yaqs945e
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